Season on the line for Panthers
By Scott Akanewich
When the Taylor Ducks waddle their way into Panther Stadium on Friday, they will have nothing to play for but perhaps finally posting a victory to nullify their 0-8 record on the current campaign.
However, the home side will have quite a bit more at stake.
Liberty Hill (2-5, 0-3) must win its final two games of the regular season to keep its playoff hopes alive and head Coach Jeff Walker knows nothing can be taken for granted despite the woeful season the visitors have suffered.
“Taylor is better than their record indicates,” said Walker. “They have a lot of skill.”
Not the least of which is junior speedster Jayson Saucedo, who plays both running back and wide receiver, providing the Ducks with a multifaceted threat on offense.
“He’s probably the fastest running back in the district,” said Walker. “Also, they’re really big up front defensively.”
For the Panthers, senior quarterback Jacob Cearley will make his second start since once again taking the controls of the offense after moving back under center during last week’s 35-31 home loss to Burnet.
The Purple-and-Gold were able to pile up an impressive 436 yards rushing on 45 attempts, good for a 9.7-yard average. Leading the way was junior Trey Seward, who gained 241 yards on 16 carries and added a pair of touchdown runs. Seward is the Panthers’ leading rusher on the season with 981 yards and 10 scores, while fellow junior Blake Simpson isn’t far behind with 866 yards and seven touchdowns.
However, grinding out yardage on offense hasn’t been a problem for the Panthers.
Capitalizing in the red zone and keeping opposing offenses from putting up points has been a thorn in the side of Walker’s club all season, as Liberty Hill has been outscored 122-62 in district play and 223-204 overall.
“Certainly, there’s a lot of pressure on us this week,” he said. “But, we try not to think about that stuff. When we’re here at work, we’re focused on the job at hand, but as coaches it hurts – when you get home, it’s on your mind, but you can’t think about the past. All we can do now is focus on Taylor.”
As far as the Ducks are concerned, Walker cautions anyone who thinks victory is assured.
“People say it should be easy against them,” he said. “But, we need to be playing our best at this time of the year.”
So to that end, is mixing up what they do a consideration at this point?
“We may have to do some different things because we’re desperate,” said Walker. “We’ve done what we’ve done for so long and been very successful, so it’s tough to throw it out. But, sometimes as a coach, you have to look in the mirror and think about other options to make us better.”